A constitutional crisis, and what some call a battle for the future of Israel — is looming, with government attempts to limit the powers of the Supreme Court.
But many Israelis and supporters of Israel don’t know much about the “override bill,” which Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut has called “bad” and “dangerous.” She and others say it could cause Israel irreparable damage.
The following Q&A with Hovav Yanai, Shatil advocacy specialist, will shine light on the matter.
Hovav, 33, has a degree in Middle East studies from the Hebrew University. He is part of Shatil’s team of advocacy experts in our Center for Policy Change, which works at the local and national level to influence policies that affect the social, economic and human rights landscape and strengthens the advocacy and media capacities of social change organizations. Hovav says what motivates his work is both social and personal: “…the good of Israeli society — where I want to live.”
What exactly is the override bill?
“It’s a code name for a bill that would prevent the Supreme Court from striking down as unconstitutional laws the Knesset passes that harm human rights in Israel.”
Why is it dangerous?
“If this bill becomes law, the Knesset can harm with impunity the rights of any individual or group, be it women, Haredim, asylum seekers, workers, Arab-Israelis, LGBTQ, etc. It can limit basic democratic rights such as the rights of assembly, free speech and protest. The role of the Supreme Court in upholding our Basic Laws (the equivalent of constitutional laws – ed.) will be greatly harmed. Politicians will have unlimited power and the system of checks and balance that is critical to any democracy will no longer exist. In a parliamentary system like ours, the only body that curbs the government — which in turn controls the Knesset — is the Supreme Court. It ensures that politicians won’t have unlimited power.”
Who would be most harmed if this bill becomes law?
“We tend to read that the weakest populations would be harmed, but the fact is, it will harm all of us. When we examine the few laws in which the Supreme Court has intervened, we see that they protected large segments of the population including soldiers, welfare recipients, refugees, former Gush Katif residents, prisoners and more. And it will harm the rule of law and our democracy.”
Isn’t it more democratic to have the people’s elected officials have the last word?
“Majority rule isn’t the only principle in a democracy. A healthy democracy has a checks and balances infrastructure that prevents a temporary majority from turning majority rule into tyranny. Moreover, the decisions of the majority must abide by the criteria that the majority itself decided on, for example, the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. It can’t legislate laws that oppose the Basic Laws. The idea that the power of the majority should be unlimited power goes against the very essence of democracy.”
What is Shatil doing about this bill?
“We’re doing what we always do: We organize coalitions and collaborations between different organizations that work on the issue and promote policies in line with the values we share. Together, we develop and implement a shared strategy.”
Do you think the bill will pass?
“That’s a complicated question.’Prophecy was given to fools.'”